With the rise of telecommuting and flexible work hours, more and more people are going to the office without leaving their living rooms. Working from home is more commonplace, but that doesn’t mean staying productive is any easier.
Methods to waste time abound from Facebook to Buzzfeed quizzes to addictive smartphone games like Candy Crush. How can you be effective and efficient while working from home?
“When you work from home you've got to be disciplined,” said Kammie Lisenby, a professional organizer and CEO of Seattle based company Organizing Experts
“Otherwise, you'll be doing house work and half the day has gone by, and it's very easy to get in a habit of self-sabotaging.”
Lisenby works with corporate executives, startup companies and busy stay-at-home moms, and she runs her company from her home, so she practices what she preaches.
To help you avoid bad habits and increase your productivity while working from home, Lisenby has shared some of her top tips.
Create an inspiring work space
Most people’s home offices consist of a computer on a desk, usually off in the corner of a spare room. Lisenby recommends treating your home office “like the business that it is, not a hobby.” This means creating a functioning work space that reflects where you want to go in your career, sparks your creativity and avoids cubical culture.
For example, if you run a shoe company, then model your office after what the CEO of that shoe company’s office might look like. Display shoes, put out your business cards and have a logo for your company on the wall.
“Be interactive with your space,” said Lisenby. “Utilize it for creativity not just a mindless place for work. Your work space should inspire you, so decorate to please your mind.”
Structure you time and define your personal boundaries
According to Lisenby, not giving yourself and your work proper credit is a big productivity pitfall, so it’s essential to define and respect your personal boundaries.
Take the example of a surgeon in the middle of an operation. No one would expect the doctor to take a personal phone call, and Lisenby said those who work from home should set the same boundaries for themselves.
Set working hours and treat that time with the same respect you would if you were at a corporate office. “Those hours are dedicated to working, not texting, taking unnecessary phone calls to chat for hours or checking Facebook every half hour,” said Lisenby.
Then, once work is over, “when you’re with your loved ones, really be with them,” she said . “Be in whatever moment you're in and don't try to multitask your life or you'll miss it.”
Write down your daily, weekly, and monthly goals
“A committed mind looks for a solution, a non-committed mind looks for an excuse,” said Lisenby. So instead of having a general idea of what you want to do each day, create and commit to a daily task list.
Task lists will also help you structure your time. “ When you write down on paper what you would like to accomplish each hour, you'll start to see progress,” said Lisenby. “Make the commitment to yourself that by managing and structuring your time you are progressing.” This will result in fewer wasted hours.
Along with writing daily tasks, create a game plan for the week and the month. Break tasks down by day. For example, Mondays could be for marketing tasks, while Tuesdays could be for returning phone calls. Then at the end of the week see which objectives you did and didn’t accomplish.
Lisenby also recommends featuring monthly goals prominently in your office to keep committed to your career ambitions. In fact, Lisenby motivates herself with goals posted to her office wall on large posters.
This idea will help to create measurable productivity structures at home similar to the ones that would exist in a corporate office setting.
Avoid the sea of sticky notes
When it comes to making lists, beware of the “sea of stickies,” meaning the hundreds of sticky notes that can clutter a desk or computer screen, said Lisenby. Instead, create a centralized list and write everything down on one piece of paper.
Cross to-dos off the list and at the end of the day move any open items to the next day’s list. It is essential to create a task list for the next day at the end of each day. That way you have a game plan in the morning before being inundated with emails and phone calls. This will help you to minimize clutter and maximize productivity.
Employ systems to get rid of clutter
Speaking of clutter, it’s not only bad for your works pace; it’s also bad for your mental health. “Clutter is because we are not able to make quick decisions,” said Lisenby. Hanging onto papers and business cards you think you might need later is the fastest way to end up with a cluttered desk and a cluttered mind.
To avoid this, immediately set up a mail system and a file system in your home office just like those in corporate businesses.
“Many of my clients forget this step and just get furniture into a room and start working, only to find themselves knee deep in paper clutter,” Lisenby said.
Lisenby empowers clients to trust their decision-making skills and learn to throw away unimportant documents and file necessary paperwork.
Going digital is an option and productivity apps like Evernote and Dropbox can help clear the clutter. But Lisenby cautions that people need to be just as organized in the digital world as they are in the paper world.
Dress for success
One of the perks of working from home is that you can roll out of bed and start the day in your pajamas. That’s all right for days when you have administrative tasks, but it’s nice to dress up a few days a week, said Lisenby.
Putting on regular clothes can help your environment feel more professional and remind you to work toward larger goals. Looking put together can even give you more confidence when talking with clients or coworkers on the phone. No need to put the yoga pants away entirely, but wearing slacks or a dress once in a while can be great if you need to run out to a lunch or a coffee meeting.
Working from home comes with plenty of benefits like flexible hours and saving on commute times, but there are also a few pitfalls. However, with Lisenby’s tips, you can be on your way to a productive workday, even in your pajamas.